Coming out of nowhere
on a beautiful starry night,
a silent night,
a light, cold breeze
stung my eyes.
The weather was changing.
As it does between Fall and Winter.
Inside, the Coal Stove was popping
My aunt had been preparing
for a cold night.
Nothing warmed the house faster
than that old, ugly, beautiful stove.
I glanced outside.
created a silver glow.
around the farm had changed.
Sharp lines of the country landscape,
were now smoothed
by the gleaming snow.
The sleigh runner hit the rock and busted loose immediately. I pulled the horse to a stop in deep snow. The runner was too damaged to fix. Damn. I patted the horse and unhooked him, I would ride the rest of the way. It was snowing. Everything was eerily silent.
The attack came suddenly, violently. Not even the horse knew the creature was there. The wolf was white like the snow and huge, unlike any creature I had ever seen. I was on the ground instantly and couldn’t breathe. Dazed, I saw my horse running away. It was then I felt the hot breath, smelled the stench of rotting flesh. The wolf stood menacingly above me. My knife out of reach, I was finished.
The giant wolf’s jaws opened impossibly wide, revealing its dreadful yellow teeth. Saliva was dripping off snarled lips. I was going to be torn apart. As I covered my face, a loud crack pierced the air. Something warm splattered my arms and face. I opened my eyes and looked up. The wolf was gone and I was covered in blood. Shaking, I eased up on an elbow. Ten feet away the wolf lay dead, half of it’s head missing, steam still rising from it’s slaughtered carcas.
An aging, bearded man, tall and broad stood over me. He boomed, “Help you up?” He carried an Eli Whitney large bore musket which he placed against a tree and pulled me up with powerful arms. “Been hunting the ghost for weeks. Was at the bend back yonder when he ambushed you. Good thing or you’d been devoured, just like my Jenny. Come back to the cabin, warm up. I’ll burn this devil later.”
Still dazed, still scared, I finally managed, “Thank you.”
The stranger who had just saved my life smiled, grabbed his rifle, patted me heartily on the shoulder and said, “Gladly. Gladly.” He looked up into the trees, his voice now breaking, “I got the ghost Jenny. I got the bastard.”
A Conversation With Charles Dickens
The chill moved through the air in my bedroom and settled at the foot of the bed. I had forgotten to close the window. I’d been restless before crawling in bed and now I was cold. I ignored it for a few minutes then rolled over and got out of bed to close the window. The dog was on the foot of the bed sleeping. The cold air didn’t bother her. I threw the covers back angrily and sat up to make the ten step walk to the window.
The old house was built in 1866. It wasn’t that big, or grand. It had been added onto, updated and repaired several times, but it was in solid condition. I purchased it from a builder who felt he could never recoup his money and still had thousands of dollars in electrical repairs ahead of him. Since I was an electrician by trade, we struck a deal. I bought the house for too much money and updated the electrical myself. Now, the only current issues were that the wood floors were cold and the old divided light windows were hard as heck to open and close.
I walked across the cold floor to the south facing window and brushed the curtains out of the way. The window was closed. Huh. Drafty old house. I closed the curtains and turned back to my bed. I stopped, stunned. Startled. What was I seeing? It appeared an old man was sitting at the foot of the bed, right next to my dog. The dog was calm, though. In fact, still asleep.
“Where did you come from?” It was all I could think to say as I nervously grabbed a fireplace poker from the fireplace tools near the window.
No answer. He sat slumped over like he was dejected, sad. His long grey hair flowed out from under an old time sleeping cap.
“Where did you come from, how did you get here?”, I demanded, this time.
He turned slightly and partially faced me. “Sit down”, he whispered.
He was dressed in a sleep gown out of the 1860’s. He had a grey scraggly beard. He looked familiar.
“Do I know you?”
“You do not”, he said matter of factly.
“Please sit and keep me company. Only for a moment.”
I didn’t want to sit and keep him company. But there was something familiar about him. And I couldn’t help but feel he was harmless. In the back of my mind however, I kept wondering how and why was he here? I walked out of the bedroom to the top of the stairs where the front door is clearly visible. It was closed. The outside porch light glowed through the small stain glass window at its top. I was curious now and calmer. The adrenaline rush was tapering off. So, I sat down in the rocking chair near the foot of my bed.
The temperature in the room had fallen a few more degrees as I could feel a thin, cool breeze coming through the open bedroom doorway, pooling at my feet. There was a quilt on the back of the rocking chair so I grabbed it. I kept the fireplace poker in my lap. My small cattle dog was still sleeping soundly which seemed all too weird. It was like she didn’t sense what was happening at all. I still can’t explain it.
“Again, can’t you tell me your name? For some reason, you look vaguely familiar.”
“I’ve been long gone, but some people know of me. Once upon a time. I became famous for writing stories of problems of the day. Stories of greed, stories of poverty, stories of suffering, a famous story of redemption. My name is Charles Dickens.”
As taken back by this strange revelation as I was, for some reason I felt more at ease with this other worldly confrontation. And again, for reasons I still can’t explain, I accepted what he had told me.
“Charles Dickens. Yes, your story of Christmas, A Christmas Carol, with Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and Bob Cratchit is one of the most well known Christmas stories in history. Numerous plays and movies have been made of the story.”
He raised his head slightly and looked at me with watery blue eyes.
“So, why are you here? Of all the places, why here, why now? I’m not like your Scrooge character. Our family loves Christmas. We celebrate Christmas.”
“This has nothing to do with Christmas, young man, he said wearily.” For some reason, he now appeared semi-transparent but I clearly could see the expression on his face and he looked tired.
“You are of no consequence. I simply know this place from the last time I visited America in the year 1868. That year I read publicly, the story, A Christmas Carol. Americans have always enjoyed that story. But, while here, I did not stop and say hello to the friend of mine who built this house, even though I had time to do so. I sent a courier with a note that I was departing for London and would see him again in the summer. Which would have been the summer of 1869. I never returned to America. I should have seen my wonderful friend one more time.”
“I have only traveled this time to see his home. The house he designed and built for his family. The home he invited me to see. The home I never came back to visit. And to meet those who live here now. Which must be, you.”
“It is me. I don’t know a great deal about its history. I can tell you, the old house is currently going through some updates, but that it hasn’t been changed much from its original construction. It’s very well built, especially for the period. It has a good foundation. Better than most homes from that era. It has been shored up a bit, but it’s pretty much original. You know sir, no one will believe me when I tell them of your visit and our conversation.”
“They won’t believe you. I am here on a personal accord. You may write of your experience, but you are quite right. No one will believe a ghost story about the author of the most famous ghost all time visiting you on this night. Nor should they. A tale is a story, it isn’t meant to be believed.”
“I see what you mean. Maybe I’ll keep it to myself.” I remarked.
I continued, “Can I ask you a question about your stories?”
He replied, “First, I will take your word regarding the temperature. It is Winter. I’m quite sure it’s cool if not purely cold. Is the house heated by fired coal?”
“No sir”, I explained. “It was originally heated by coal and steam many years ago. Now, the house is warmed by a furnace which uses natural gas. The furnace burns the natural gas and at a certain temperature, a fan, which uses electricity, comes on and forces warm, heated air through a system of duct works to each room in the house.”
He looked perplexed and then smiled, “Really? It seems complicated. But surely it’s a much more effective method of heating a home than firing coal or keeping fires burning in a fireplace. My, what all I have missed. Now, what is your question before I must go?”
He looked more translucent than a moment ago as if he were fading away. “Because of it’s masterful storytelling and it’s popularity over the decades, would it be safe to assume, A Christmas Carol is your favorite story?”
He smiled very slightly and patted my dog on the head. The dog stayed asleep, didn’t flinch.
“No, it isn’t!” He smiled. “My favorite story and always has been is, Oliver Twist. The suffering of the poor, of the orphans, of the children in London during that time was painful to me. There were no laws, no rules regulating the use of children in the workplace. The filth in manufacturing, in the factories, in the mines of the day was cruel. Especially to children, to orphans who were deemed by the ruling class of London to be expendable. It was a deplorable situation.”
“I believed I had enough of a following then, through my stories, through the newspapers, that I could possibly effect some kind of change for the poor souls. And the story did, somewhat. Some labor laws were passed protecting children before Oliver Twist was printed. Many more were passed after that. I believe Oliver Twist helped bring to the public eye, the reality that orphans and children were suffering under a cruel and abusive system. Once the story was written into theatre, more sympathy for the downtrodden followed. Orphanages were cleaned up. Child labor was regulated and workplace conditions improved in the factories. Which is why, despite it not being as popular, Oliver Twist is my favorite work.”
I sat there staring at him. Somehow, he didn’t look quite as weary. He was smiling. I could see completely through him now. He patted my dog on the head but his hand passed through her. He looked at me and nodded. “Cheers”, he whispered and faded away entirely.
“Cheers”, I responded. But it was too late. He had vanished.
“Remarkable.” I reached over and patted my dog. She opened her eyes and curled into a tighter ball. I took the quilt off my shoulders and spread it over her. The room was noticeably warmer since the ghost of, presumably Charles Dickens, faded away.
It seemed like ten minutes, but I woke up three hours later. I dressed and walked to the kitchen. I grabbed a notepad and paper, took a sip of hot coffee and began writing a story about my encounter with an entertaining ghost.
I sipped slowly
Mild chocolate undertone
Like bittersweet cocoa
I sipped again through the foam
Satisfying, even uplifting
It filled me with comfort
I sat by the study window
The Fireplace crackling with warmth
As rain clouds gathered
On the northern horizon
And started a new book
“Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you’re home again
You belong to me...”
The lyrics of the song were playing over and over in my head. I wasn’t sure where I was but I felt warm. My senses started coming to life slowly like I was waking up from a deep sleep. My arms and legs were tingling and it felt like something was crawling on me. I opened my eyes with a start and warm water ran into them. I was standing under warm running water.
“Welcome back, Calvin.”
The water stopped running and I was engulfed in warm air. I became aware I could not move my arms. I could feel my arms but they were trapped at my side. I was in some kind of body sized tube.
“Welcome back, Calvin,” the voice said again. I tried to respond but I couldn’t make a sound.
As my eyes cleared I realized I was in a room much like a hospital operating room. It looked sterile, there were stainless steel tables and chairs and cabinets, a white tile floor and stark white walls. A lot of bright light was coming from around the edge of the ceiling but no lamps or other light fixtures were in the room. A glass desk with two small looking television sets was against the far wall. Some sort of image was repeatedly swirling on the screens. Strange.
“Welcome back, Calvin.” The voice was soft and pleasant. A woman’s voice. But no one was in the room.
“Hell, hell, hello...? , I finally replied weakly. Where am I?” A warm mist filled the tube and I felt myself slipping back to sleep.
What seemed like a few minutes, but could have been days, passed and I woke gasping for air. I was in a hospital bed. Four people dressed in white, wearing matching white cloth masks and caps were standing over me. They looked like ghosts. One was wearing tiny eyeglasses. There were two men and two women I guessed. The room was large and well lit. A huge window was on my left, draperies were pulled open and the sky was blue. A small tube of some kind was in my nose and I could feel air softly blowing through it. A needle and tube was stuck in my arm but it wasn’t painful. And I was thirsty, desperately thirsty.
“Good afternoon Mr. Pearl, the tall ghost with the tiny spectacles said. Do you know your full name?”
“Calvin Pearl. Where am I, what is this place? I’m cold. Very cold. Can I get another blanke?"
“Sure,” he said and motioned to one of the other ghosts. “What else do you remember?”
“Song lyrics. Well, the chorus anyway of You Belong To Me,” I replied.
“I’m not familiar with that song Calvin,” asked one of the women standing there in white garb. “Who sang the song and when was it popular?”
“First, can I have a drink of water please?” The tall guy nodded to the person next to him and that person left the room.
“You’re kidding, right?, I answered. Jo Stafford, two months ago. It was a hit right away.”
They returned with a glass of water and handed it to me. It was chilled, not cold. Just right. I drank every sweet drop.
“Calvin, the tall guy started, let me introduce you to my staff. I’m Doctor Smith. Charles Smith. This is Dr. Harold Sam, Dr. Renee Frye, and Dr. Lindy Sharp. We’re part of a team that’s in charge of reviving patients who were put into suspended animation, cryogenically. We attempted to revive the first two patients who voluntarily underwent the cryogenic freeze experiment in 1951. Both died, unfortunately. In 1952, two more people in their thirties went through an extensive interview process to volunteer for the cryogenic freeze experiment. Out of two thousand applicants, two people were chosen. You are one of those two people.”
He continued, “Calvin I’d like to ask you a few questions. Be honest and answer to the best of your ability. If you have no recollection or have no sure answer, just say so. Okay? How old are you, what is your birth year? Have you ever been married? What was the name of your father? The name of your mother? Do you have any brothers or sisters? What state and city did you live in? Do you remember what you did for a living? Did you own a car? Were you buying a home or renting? Who was the President of the United States 1952? Did you serve in any military branch during World War II? If so, did you see action in the war? If the answer is yes, where were you deployed? Lastly, did you have any pets?”
I laid there numb. How could any of this be real? Was I dead? I didn’t feel dead. I asked, “What year is this?”
Dr. Smith looked at the other doctors and replied, “2019.”
“2019? What, how?”, I asked incredulously.
Can you answer any of those questions I asked? Any at all?”
I knew all the answers except for how I got into this place. In fact, I felt fairly good, just confused. So I started, “I’m thirty-five years old, I was born January 15, 1917 in Rapid City, South Dakota. My father and mother both passed away when I was nineteen. My father left a fair amount of money when he passed. He also had a large life insurance policy. I had money to live on for awhile and decided to go to school and become a civil engineer. I went to college at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. I graduated in 1940 with a degree in petroleum engineering. While there, I participated in the ROTC program. I joined the army in 1942 and served in Manchester, England as part of a US Army Quatermaster division in charge of fuel and water distribution. I carried a sidearm but never actually saw action. I was a paper pusher. I left the Army for a civilian job in 1949. I was a Captain. I never met General Eisenhower but a saw him board a plane twice. He won the presidential election in November 1952. I voted for him. Last I knew, I was employed by the Shell Oil Company and worked in an office in Boise, Idaho. I’m divorced. My wife left me after two years and moved to Montana. We were still friends. I have her phone number somewhere. I was renting a decent house in a nice suburban neighborhood and drove a red 1949 GMC pickup truck. No pets. So, doctor, who is the president in 2019 assuming this country still operates the way it used to?” I asked snakily just to prove I wasn't the only one who wanted information.
The doctors quietly exchanged glances. Dr. Smith spoke first, “Memory of his past is fine.”
Smith smiled, “Donald J. Trump is currently the President of the United States. Thank you, Mr. Pearl. You’re getting fluids, electrolytes and vitamins in an IV. We will get you some real food in a couple of days. In the mean time, stay in bed. Don’t try to get up without help. Buzz if you need something. Just press the red button.” Then they turned and filed out of the room. I had no idea who Donald Trump was, as if I would anyway. Apparently, I had indeed been out of circulation, frozen, for well over sixty years.
I was dumbfounded. Tired. I drifted off to sleep and when I woke up the doctor introduced to me as Dr. Lindy Sharp was hooking up a new bag of electrolytes. She glanced down at me and spoke. “The other person who underwent the cryro freeze in 1952 has transitioned out and is recovering next door. Her name is Karen Kramer. We’re glad you are both well.”
“I feel fine. But I want to know what really happened. Why am I here, again? Was I ill, dying in 1952? What the hell happened that I ended up frozen and now I’m back sixty-seven years later? I should be one hundred and two years old.”
She sat on the chair next to the bed. “As Dr. Smith pointed out, you volunteered for this. By December of 1952, before Christmas, you and Ms. Kramer, who is from a different part of the country, volunteered and were chosen from a field of two thousand applicants. You are completely healthy. That was the primary prerequisite. You volunteered to be cryogenically frozen and then revived in 2019 as part of a well funded medical, psychological and social experiment. You agreed to be part of this extraordinary study for what we hope will be an understanding of how the human body endures cryogenic suspended animation, short term effects, long term effects and so on. Also, it’s going to allow us to examine from a real, first person perspective how you will respond to technological advances and social changes. Is your initial reaction going to be to resist change or easily adapt? The experiment in the long run, will provide data to help prepare space travelers in the near future adapt to suspended animation for long periods of time. We’ve found it remarkable that you remember everything of your past life, except signing up for the cryro freeze experiment, preparing for it, and checking into the Cryro Center for the procedure. Interesting. You should be recovered enough to see the new world out there in about a week.”
I glanced out my window, must’ve been several stories up. All I saw was light blue sky and wispy clouds. Thought. I figured I signed up for this like they said I did. “Space travel... huh? What city am I in?”
“You’re at the largest, most advanced Trauma Hospital in Colorado. You’re in Denver.”
“A trauma hospital?”
“This particular hospital is heavily funded by the Department of Defense. We have nearly unlimited resources to study new medical procedures including experimental surgeries and medications.”
“Really?” Then I must’ve blinked out. I woke up again four hours later according to the institutional looking clock on the wall.
They helped me out of bed and helped me walk six times a day. By day three I didn’t need help. On day five I met Karen Kramer. We both walked around the same floor for a couple of days talking and getting acquainted. We looked out every window we came to. We could see cars in the distance. Small cars, large cars, large trucks, some of them odd colors. Tall buildings were off to the south, many looked like they were made of glass. The only people we saw were dressed in blue, green, purple, black or white hospital scrubs.
Karen was from Corvallis, Oregon and had taught History at Oregon State University. Like me, she was thirty-five, had no strings attached to family, was in good physical condition and didn’t remember signing up for being cryogenically frozen and revived sixty-seven years later. She had not been in the military. She was fairly tall, with dark hair and we had quite a bit in common. She was confused and concerned but like me had resolved that she had indeed agreed to this "cryogenic experiment" as it was being called by the doctors.
On the seventh day after waking up in a hospital bed, we were taken to a conference room where we were told that we would be escorted outside and driven to a shopping mall outside of the Denver city center. While describing a “mall”, it was clear neither me nor Karen knew what they were talking about. Apparently, shopping had changed the last six decades. They claimed this mall housed over one hundred-ninety stores and covered over one million, five hundred thousand-sixty square feet. I don’t think Boise had that many stores in it’s entirety in 1952. I usually only went to one clothing store, one shoe store and a couple different grocery stores.
Smith then handed us a small device which he told us was a "cellular phone" and described how it worked. The notion a telephone could be carried around in my pocket and could make and receive calls seemed impossible. Yet there it was. Smith made a few phone calls from with it and showed me how to pull up the screen with the dial pad, how to dial from the screen and complete the call then talk and then how to disconnect. It was extraordinary. And extraordinarily interesting. I commented to him that it reminded me of something Dick Tracy wore on his wrist to which Smith replied, “Those actually exist. They’re much more than a two way radio though, they are phones as well as tiny computers that are capable of a number of functions.”
I was transported in a van to the mall with Dr. Lindy Sharp. Along the way I saw automobiles of every shape, size and color, including one that Dr. Sharp explained was electric. It supposed ran on powerful batteries that were periodically recharged. The technological advances made in the last six decades were fantastic. I was not only intrigued but greatly encouraged by what had taken place while I had checked out and had been cryogenically frozen.
The cryogenic technology was amazing in itself, especially for 1952. But so many advances had been made in computer sciences I was having a hard time gras it all. I knew some type of computer systems had been introduced and used by colleges in the late 1940’s but I had never seen one. Computers weren’t talked about in 1950 because hardly anyone knew they existed. Now as I found out, in 2019, nearly everyone not only owned and used a computer daily, computers were carried around in cases, they were in telephones and even worn on the wrist like a watch.
We pulled up to the mall and I was escorted in. It was all enclosed. It was enormous and it was beautiful. I smelled food immediately. Sharp pointed out the direction of what she called the food court, told me to keep close track of the phone and told me not to get lost. She gave me fifty dollars in different bills. The one dollar bills looked vaguely familiar but the fives, tens, and twenty looked very different. Lincoln, Hamilton and Jefferson were on the bills but the money had a new design and had some coloration to them. They were spiffed up in looks compared the money from the forties and fifties. I took off walking toward whatever the food court was. I walked by dozens and dozens of retail stores of every kind, including one that was selling women’s underwear.
The food court offered all sorts choices for food. I got an order of French fries with gravy and a Coka-Cola. It was excellent. Three hours later my cellular phone made a weird sounding ring. I pulled it from my shirt pocket and pressed the green dot on the glass screen. The name at the top of the screen said Dr. Lindy Sharp.
Dr. Sharp and the van were out in front of the mall fifteen minutes later and I was waiting for them. She smiled and I smiled back. “Have fun?”, she greeted me. I was carrying three shopping bags that said American Eagle, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cinnabon.
“Yes, I did”, I answered. “I think I'm going to like the future and I’m ready for whatever is next.”
“Next is a debrief and a few days of education to bring you and Ms. Kramer up to speed with the Twenty-First Century. Then, we’ll talk about your future with the DOD. Welcome home Mr. Pearl. By the way, I found this for you on the internet.” She smiled and danced her fingers across a small portable computer the size of a thin book. Music started playing. Music I recognized. The first music I’d heard since 1952, the soft sensual singing of a woman started,
“Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it's wet with rain
Just remember till you're home again
You belong to me...”
I took in the sprawling city of Denver and took a deep, cleansing breath and listened to Jo Stafford singing, You Belong To Me from a small handheld computer the size of a National Geographic magazine. I thought, once this so called experiment was over, I’d make my way back to Idaho and see if anything was left for me there.
I didn’t want to go, in fact, I flat out said, no. But my friend showed up anyway, told me to drop everything and to come on. I was in the middle of a term paper, an important term paper so I refused again. He told me I was going with him or there would be consequences. Blackmail?
I had sabotaged a test schedule of a so called friend of ours, who was actually a prick from time to time, so I took advantage of an opportunity to knock him down a notch. He showed up for the final on the wrong day. Mission accomplished. Except it turned out to be worse than that. The guy failed the course. His ego was huge and he was so humiliated, he quit college. I didn’t expect that. We’d had our differences but I never thought he’d fail the course, then quit school. Turned out to be a jerk move on my part. So, that’s what I suspected was the consequences my other so called friend was talking about. The blackmail. Later I would learn I was wrong.
So I went with him, against my will, abducted so to speak. None of what my friend was up to, or needed me for, was nefarious. In fact some would say I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. From the outside looking in it would have appeared to be not that big of a deal. After all, he just wanted me to take his sister out on a date so he could spend some time with his new girl, who he was getting very serious about. Here’s the thing, his sister is two years younger than us and just starting college. I’ve known her since she was in sixth grade. She’s a horrible person. Self centered, rude, argumentative. We’ve never gotten along. Ever. She dislikes me as much or worse than I dislike her. Our personalities are like gasoline and fire. We can’t be around each other very long and we’re burning each other and everyone around us to the ground. I’d rather date Bigfoot.
It’s not that she’s unattractive. She is attractive. If she would never speak, she’s the kind of woman you’d like to be seen with. My buddy knows I can’t hardly stand her and I think he knows she can’t stand me. Me knowing he knows that pisses me off even more. But it’s not worth the guy I burned on the test schedule finding out what I’d done. So I agree to take my friend’s wretched sister on the date. I was surprised when he told me she had also agreed on the date. I figured he must have had something on her as well.
He took me, abducted me. Not by force but by agitated protest. We were two miles away when I realized I could not take his sister anywhere without a car and mine was back at my house. “Question. How do I take her anywhere without a car?”, I asked.
He smiled. “You’re not taking her anywhere. You’re babysitting. We’ve got a new dog. A rescue dog. It’s part Blue Heeler. It’s skittish and it shouldn’t be left alone until it’s used to it’s new home. I’ll drop you off and then I’m off to get Karen. We’re talking about the future.”
“You aren’t making a damn bit of sense. Your mean as hell sister can take care of herself and a dog. Last thing she needs is me,” I told him.
He smiled again. “Yes she can. Problem is she broke her foot the day before yesterday and it’s a big inconvenience to watch the dog because right now it still hurts her to get up and down. It’s bothering her enough she’s willing to have you come over and help! So how desperate is she for help right now?” And he smiled, almost snickered. I had indeed been abducted.
This was going to be a lost argument. I agreed to stay with his arrogant sister and help watch the dog. Besides, I didn’t want to be outed for changing the test schedule and ruining college for my other so called friend, who I got along with, but was still a part time jackass. Although, he’s not as big of a jackass now as he used to be.
My friend who abducted me dropped me off at their house. A beautiful house ten miles from town. His sister met me at the door. Except for the blue cast on her foot and crutches she was hobbling on, she looked as pretty as ever. But I was reminded how deceptive looks can be, that as soon as she opened her mouth the looks wouldn’t matter anymore. Then she looked at me and smiled. She had not smiled at me in eight years, that I could ever remember. “Come in”, she said softly. My heart slightly skipped a beat and I went inside.
Three years later we were engaged. There was never any blackmail. My friend told me his sister specifically asked if I would come over and help her. She acted rude around me because she thought I was rude. She actually liked me and apparently had for awhile. Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I was abducted alright. It turned out to be a life changing event. After we’re married, we’re keeping the dog.
I was staring at the calendar when it happened. October 31, 1947. A bright, white light followed by an intense heat, exploded through the kitchen window. I can’t remember whether or not the window disintegrated, or if the heat I felt was radiating through the glass. It was a searing, painful heat. The bright light washed out the calendar and filled the room. As I raised my hands to shield my eyes, I woke up. I was hot and sweating and out of breath. I sat up on the edge of the bed and reached over and opened the window. The October air was mild and cool. Shortly after that, I must have fallen back to sleep.
The next morning I made coffee, poured a cup and opened the refrigerator to get some cream. There was a loud thump on the kitchen window and it startled me. I spun around, spilling coffee, and looked out the window. Nothing there. The window wasn’t even cracked. Walking around the edge of the kitchen table, I looked into the back yard. Lying under the window was a bird. A meadowlark. I went outside to see if it was dead, but before I got halfway to him, the bird flopped and flapped and took off into the sky like nothing had happened.
Back in the kitchen, I took a long sip of the coffee. It was still hot. I stood in front of the calendar looking at October 31, 1947. A feeling of deja vu came over me and I raised my hand to shield my face like I knew what was coming, but nothing happened. Looking out the kitchen window, all I saw was a sunny, bright October morning. I remembered the dream though, or the nightmare. I had been looking at the date, October 31. That was seven days from today.
I walked back through the living room, turned on the radio and kept walking toward the bedroom. A news break was on, no music. “Astronomers from the University of Denver said today, a rare comet will pass close enough to earth on October thirty-first to actually be seen during the day.” I stopped walking. October thirty-first? What are the chances, I wondered? Coincidence? I felt light headed, I went back to the kitchen and sat down. The dream suddenly came back to me. I felt the intense heat on the side of my face. The comet. Is a comet going to collide with earth on the thirty-first of October? Was my nightmare really a premonition? Does everyone only have a week before the end? Before being destroyed by a comet?
No. That’s insane! It was just a weird dream. I poured fresh coffee and finally heard the radio again, Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette by Tex Williams was playing. It was a good song. I got up from the table, leaving my coffee behind and went outside to the fresh air.
The day passed quickly, a day off usually does. The radio was still on, “Don’t forget to watch for the comet on the thirty-first, in seven days!” I turned it off and turned on the TV. I sat down before the screen came on. You Bet Your Life, with Groucho Marx was on. It was new to television and wasn’t going to last. It was a bad show. I was too tired to get up and do something else so I just sat there. I was tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.
At some point, I fell asleep. The nightmare had returned. I was in the kitchen staring at the calendar again, staring at the date October 31. An excruciating bright light followed by a wave of intense heat blasted through the kitchen window and hit me in the face. It felt like the whole house exploded in on top of me. I woke up sweating and gasping and too thirsty to breathe. I stumbled to the kitchen. The clock on the wall read, 4:45. I drank a glass of water and shuffled to bed.
At 7:00 AM, I woke with a start. No dream, no recurring nightmare of last night. Just unexpected and unexplainable anxiety. I got up, threw my robe on and ran to the kitchen. I stared at the calendar. Today was October 25. But I was looking at the square with the number 31 in the corner. I wondered out loud, “What the hell is going on with me?” I dumped more ground coffee in the percolator and stood there dumbfounded while the coffee brewed. I poured a cup. Then I turned on the radio just as the news break came on, again. “Today astronomers from the University of Denver confirm the comet that is expected to pass near earth on Halloween, seems to be right on schedule.” I turned the radio off. I sat there numb, holding a cold cup of coffee.
It was then I realized the significance of my dream or possibly my premonition. The blast, the intense, bright light, the excruciating heat-- earth is going to be destroyed. Melted in a cataclysmic collision with a gigantic, rogue comet. Seven days. The entire planet has seven days. What can I do? Who would ever believe me? Maybe I was wrong. God, I pray I’m wrong.
I got dressed and went out to my brand new Mercury sedan. It was a beauty. My dog Kipper jumped in the back. He loved car rides. I drove to the bank, and withdrew one thousand dollars. I stopped at the drive-in and ordered a cheeseburger, a hamburger and chocolate malt to go. I gave the hamburger to Kipper, then started the three day drive to Monterey, California and the Pacific Ocean.